Film Journal 2023: Are You There God, Its Me Margaret

Film Journal 2023: Are You There God, Its Me Margaret
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

One of the best coming of age stories to release in a while. Honest and authentic to its core. Perfectly captures what it is to go through puberty with all its uncertainty and struggles, and does so with grace and sensitivity without sacrificing the raw reality of the process. Even where the particularities of this story about a young girl becoming a woman sits outside of my own realm of experience, I think the story itself can translate universally.

I have never read any of Blooms books, and my only point of reference was the recent documentary from this year on the author, which I confess left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. My fear was that this film would be anti-religious and cater to what the doc portrayed as a deeply rooted allegiance to individualism and the cult of the self. That’s not at all, however, what this film is.

Given the way it parallels the religious conflict with the uncertainty of growing up in to puberty, I thought the script did a really nice job of demonstrating how growth and understanding comes through maturity. Maturity brings wisdom, and Margaret’s honest seeking after God comes in light of her struggles, where God seems to be all but silent. And yet the film dares to imagine the struggle as an invitation to seek God in the process of living. The film likewise extends a welcome freedom both to ask questions and to learn how to form and hold convictions in the uncertainty.

Religion becomes the divisive backdrop that echos Blooms own experience growing up. Religion becomes for Margaret a source of hurt and pain, not hope. And yet, whereas the doc would suggest that Bloom found an answer to her struggles by replacing God with a renewed commitment to the “I”, as though stripping God from the equation could solve her personal crisis and get rid of the division, the film never loses sight of the fact that the crisis is born not of religion but of the human experience. To sacrifice God on the alter of our experiences might be the most honest reaction we can find, but I think this film shows that it doesn’t take long for an allegiance to the self to find itself mired in a need to be anchored in something bigger than the “I”.

If there is a message that flows from Margarets own wrestling it is that the graces we need to navigate this thing we call existence often arrive against expectations. Which might just be the most hopeful portrait of God we can find.

Published by davetcourt

I am a 40 something Canadian with a passion for theology, film, reading writing and travel.

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